The funeral will be held
July 12, 7 PM
Saint Peter’s Church
619 Lexington Avenue (at 54th Street)
New York, New York 10022-4610
A jazz service is being planned and is likely to include: Randy Weston and African Rhythms, a classical piece on violin played by one of his nieces, and Nextep featuring Frank Wess (Benny’s last group with whom he recorded). There will be New Orleans Brass band to play first and second line.
Condolences may be sent to:
3128 Westover Drive SE
Washington DC 20020
Instead of flowers the family has setup an education fund for his Grandchildren.
Kyle and Faith Swetnam
CO Evelyn Nolan (Grandmother)
2890 Emerald Spring Dr
Lawrenceville GA 30095
Benny died on the morning of June 26th. He was at Roosevelt Hospital, in New York City, recovering from successful spinal surgery when he died from causes not yet determined. He may have suffered a fatal heart attack, but the official report is not due until later this week.
Benny is survived by his daughter Demitra Powell Clay, his grandchildren Faith and Kyle Swetnam, his sister Elizabeth Powell McCrowey, his nieces, Lisa Dickerson who was in New York with him for the surgery, Terri Dickerson Hawkins, Patrice Dickerson, Laurie Dickerson, Verna Von Holtzclaw, Ann McCrowey Mickle and Bennette Brown; his nephews Bryon Brown, Craig Brown, Gilbert Mc Crowey Michael McCrowey, and Scott McCrowey; Barry K. Cooper, whom he loved as a son, and a host of grand nephews, nieces, cousins, and dear friends.
This video of Jake, swinging with the All Stars: Jimmy Cleveland, Jeff Fuller, Bucky Pizzarelli, John Bunch, Warren Vaché, Scott Hamilton is a short excerpt from one posted at Drummer World. The tune is Perdido.
It used to be in days of yore, that news, be it good or bad, took weeks to travel – pony express. Now word goes out so fast that scarcely an hour passes before the entire world becomes aware. So it was on Friday evening that I learned that Jake Hanna had left us. It has been years since I’ve been in real touch with Jake & Denisa, but my affection for them both remains always in my heart. You’ll read elsewhere, and everywhere, about Jake’s tremedous talent, his huge heart, his super-sized sense of humor and penchant for telling a good, often hilarious story.
Not only was Jake a wonderful raconteur but he was also a perpetrator of many pranks. Every once in a while, though, someone would turn the tables on him and one such time it was my dad who, much to his own chagrin, prevailed. It was during The Merv Griffin Show days in New York. The show was taped in the Little Theatre on 44th street between Broadway and 8th avenue, next door to Sardi’s. Mort Lindsay was the band leader, and musicians included Bill Berry, Bob Brookmeyer, Art Davis, Jim Hall, Jake Hanna, Richie Kamuca,…
As Jake got up from his seat at the drums, after or during a rehearsal, he had a habit of deliberately stepping into a small waste basket — when done at the correct angle, he’d then walk a few feet with the basket affixed as a boot. One day my dad decided to put quite a few inches of water in the bottom and float a few wadded-up papers on top to hide the tide. Rehearsal came and went but Jake didn’t step in it; oh well.
That night, during the show, Jake had the rare occasion to leave his drums and walk a few feet onto the stage to hit a gong — yes, you guessed it. TV cameras rolling, Jake walks onstage with a very wet pant leg. The camera didn’t see him step in the basket, but the band did and they all fell out, quietly. The water had sloshed up towards his knee and Jake just had to keep on going to hit his mark and ring that gong.
I am sure he is now instigating heavenly hilarity and swinging with all his angelic friends – well, maybe not angelic….
This is a cross-posting from SnapSizzleBop.com and includes some extra photos.
On Saturday evening, August 15, 2009, half-way through the free concert in the amphitheater at Farnsworth Park in Altadena, a plethora of plaques and commendations were bestowed upon John. Every summer, the Sheriff’s Support Group of Altadena (SSGA), sponsors a series of free concerts sampling a wide variety of musical genres. Saturday night featured smooth-jazz guitarist Brian Hughes, and tho his style is a tad more contemporary than the music John played and the artists he managed, it was fitting nonetheless and we were delighted to be there. Brian even surprised us with a lovely nod to Wes Montgomery in the second half.
[Many thanks to photographer Leroy Hamilton for sharing these pictures. Click on each image to enlarge and view in a separate window.]
We knew, of course, that the SSGA was going to honor John, and I suspected that he might get a proclamation from a local politician’s office, but neither of us were prepared for the number of awards that he received. First was the SSGA certificate of Special Recognition presented by the group’s president, Robert Klomberg, in recognition of John’s “achievements in the music world of Jazz, as a performer, Manager, and Produce of the greatest names in Jazz, and as an Altadena resident…”
Then Bob turned the mic over to Capt. Roosevelt Blow who gave John a Certificate of Appreciation from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Dept, signed by Leroy Baca, in tribute to John’s “dedication, unprecedented professional accomplishments, and lifetime commitment to music.” Next came an award from the NAACP, presented by Charles Pulliam, III. We are very familiar with the annual NAACP Image Awards, but this was a Certificate of Merit and so is quite special. In the presentation, they acknowledged that John’s history was just 3 years shy of theirs as the organization is commemorating its centennial, and in an accompanying letter, Branch President Barbara Bigby spoke of how John “paved the way and set the standard for those who enter unchartered territory.”
Capt. Blow also did the honors on behalf of the California Senate, presenting a Certificate of Recognition for John’s “Lifetime of Music” signed by Carol Liu. Then came a beautiful hand-crafted County of Los Angeles Commendation (click here to see the special detail – a bass depicted to the right of John’s name) from Supervisor Michael Antonovich, “In recognition of dedicated service to the affairs of the community and for the civic pride demonstrated by numerous contributions for the benefit of all citizens of Los Angeles County.” And last, but certainly not least, Congressman Adam B. Schiff sent not only a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition, but also a flag that once flew over the Capitol Building.
John never seeks the spotlight, and Saturday night was no exception. In his acceptance speech he deftly turned the spotlight on his friends. Eight households from our own little block turned out in force (with their children!) as well as many friends from the greater neighborhood at large. As much as he appreciated the official commendations, nothing touched John’s heart as much as this show of love from our friends who are as close to us as family and who embody the true meaning of community. Thank you Neil and Brenda; Bill; Joe and Jen; Robert and Sue; Richard, Jan, Jessica, and Christopher; Wayne, Cheryl, and Emily; Tom and Judy; Phil, Susan, and Robin; Byron and Regina; Laronda; William and Erin. Also our friends from Fox’s, Diana, Ron, and Spree; friends from across town, Valerie, Kit, Lynn and Mary; and…. (I am bound to have forgotten someone, if so my apologies.)
Events like this require a lot of behind-the-scenes work, and had we known all the participants before-hand, John would have been able to thank them at the time. Now, after-the-fact, we want to at least acknowledge as many a we can, publicly via the Internet, and extend our heartfelt thanks for all that they did. Capt. Roosevelt Blow who spearheaded this effort, Robert Klomburg, President of the SSGA, the group that sponsors this annual series of free concerts in Farnsworth Park, and Angelica Calleros of Parks and Recreation. Also: Carolyn Seitz of the Sheriff’s Community Advisory Committee; Jamie Bissner, member of SSGA and the Altadena Town Council; all the members of the Altadena Sheriff’s Station including Lieutenant Sheila Sanchez, Sergeant Marsha Williams, Sergeant Dan Bartlett, and Deputy Sammy Estrada; Sussy Nemer and Rita Hadjimonukian in Supervisor Antonovich’s office; William Syms in Congressman Schiff’s office; and District Director Tahra Goraya in Carol Liu’s office.
WE THANK YOU, ONE AND ALL.
Is Michael Jackson really THAT important? More important than protestors in Iran? Famine? What about the millions of AIDs deaths in Africa? OK, music provides a soundtrack for our lives and Michael’s music has touched many millions of lives, and yes, death is sad for those of us still here, especially when death comes early in life. But really, can any one person be so important as to obliterate all other concerns?
At first I was sickened by the overabundance of Michael everywhere I turned, and admittedly, to some extent I still cringe, but reading Sarah Weinman’s June 25th post on Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind, I found her perspective to be more in keeping with my thoughts, and the comments from her readers gave me hope as well. Readers commented on his “troubled life” and hoped that in death he would be at peace. “The guy only seemed to come fully alive onstage,” wrote J.D. Rhoades. “In front of a crowd, he was damn near superhuman. But you can’t live life onstage 24/7, and he could ever seem to adjust to life on Earth.”
Weinmn saves her greatest appreciation for his dancing, writing that Jackson
“represented the ultimate American narrative, reared from an early age to work hard and produce, to support a family rife with internal tensions and jealousies and to appease the hangers-on, trapped by his penchant for excess and flaws tragic and monstrous….But when it comes right down to it, what brings me back to MJ’s classic songs, his groundbreaking videos and those breathtaking live performances is the way he moved, his total command over space, the upward slope of his arch and downturn onto the balls of his feet.”
For many years now, when I hear Michael’s name his music is the last thing to come to my mind. Media attention has focused on his private life more than his music, and the videos that capture his dancing prowess are somehow overshadowed in my memories by his crotch-grabbing. But last night, Johnny Pate called and mentioned a beautiful song by Michael that he heard at the end of Ann Curry’s NBC report. The song was Gone Too Soon from his Dangerous album. I don’t own any MJ recordings, but I do remember this beautiful song in the context of Michael dedicating it to Ryan White and shining a spotlight the importance of AIDs research. (It also garnered a lot of attention when Princess Diana died and was on a compilation CD titled Diana Princess of Wales Tribute.)
It’s sad that Michael lived such a tortured life, and it is sad that he died, but even sadder to me is the current state of our culture that feeds more on celebrity-gawking and not enough on arts appreciation.
I received an email this morning from Ed Danielson reminding me that today is Brick Fleagel’s 102nd birhday. Happy Birthday Brick. If you don’t know about Brick Fleagel, read what I wrote about himthree years ago today (drat! tempus is fugiting faster than I’d like!) and this email response from Bill Crow.
And if you don’t know who Ed Danielson is, he’s the host of The Morning Beat, KUVO’s weekday morning drive-time program. (You can listen to KUVO online here.) Ed’s been hosting the Denver program since June of 2001 and I have just learned that he regularly makes note of the birthdays of jazz musicians, both living and departed. In his email Ed asked if I knew when Brick died and while I once thought that date was circa 1981, I now think it was more like 1992 because Billie Henderson (Luther’s widow) remember’s Brick’s death as being shortly before the Broadway opening of Jelly’s Last Jam. Memories are suspect, however, so as a biographer I will have to keep looking for a verifiable date.
And speaking of Billie Allen Henderson, a respected actress and director in her own right, I want to tell you that she has established a Luther Henderson Scholarship Fund within the Juilliard School. A smashing evening benefit gala entitled “Spreadin’ the Rhythm Around” will be held on October 6th at Juilliard’s Jay Sharp Theatre. (Read more about the scholarship and gala here on the LHSF site andhere in JazzTimesmagazine.)
Jazz And The Poet Laureate is the title of Mr. Rifftides’ piece today. I happen to be in Toronto this weekend with two poets who, as jazz lovers, have put their passions not only on the page, but into action. As poets, each has written about and been inspired by jazz, but beyond their talents as poets, their love of jazz has led them to contribute greatly to the lifeblood of jazz and so I wish to call Dana Gioia and A.B. Spellman to your attention.
A February 2003 headline in the San Francisco Chronicle read: “Who Is Dana Gioia? He’s a poet, a businessman, a Northern Californian and President Bush’s choice to head the National Endowment for the Arts.” Now, in his second term as Chairman of the NEA, Dana continues to elevate jazz, expanding the Jazz Masters program in his quest to make it equal to the prestige of the pulitzer prize. (Our good friend Terry Teachout, as a member of he National Council on the Arts, is well acquainted with Chairman Gioia.) Dana is an award-winning poet, essayist, critic, and author, and his poems have been set to music by numerous composers, from classical to rock. I asked Dana about this and he mentioned Dave Brubeck as one of those composers and also spoke of a joint performance he did in New York with Chico Hamilton. On his web site you will find his bio along with many links to poems, and excerpts from his works and interviews.
I met A.B. a few years ago through the jazz masters program but I did not know a lot about his background. A little web research yielded the following:
For thirty years A.B. Spellman was “a guiding force in the continuation and expansion of the NEA Jazz Masters program” and the NEA Jazz Master award given for Jazz Advocacy is now given in his name. He is an author, poet, critic, and lecturer. He was a poet-in-residence at Morehouse College, in Atlanta, Ga. He taught various courses in African-American culture; offered courses in modern poetry, creative writing, and jazz at Emory, Rutgers, and Harvard Universities. Spellman is an occasional television and radio commentator. He offered reviews and commentaries on National Public Radio’s Jazz Riffs series, including the NPR Basic Jazz Record Library program. Mr. Spellman is a graduate of Howard University. read more
And from the History Makers website:
In 1966, Spellman’s writing career took off when he published his first full-length book, Four Lives in the Bee-Bop Business, an in-depth look at the lives of jazz musicians Cecil Taylor, Ornette Coleman, Herbie Nichols and Jackie McLean. The following year, Spellman joined a group of black poets touring the nation’s historically black colleges. From 1968 until 1969, he worked as a political essayist and poet for Rhythm Magazine, and in 1969, Spellman conducted a lecture series throughout the country teaching at various colleges including Morehouse, Emory and Rutgers. read more
Here’s a brief excerpt from A.B.’s poem titled After Vallejo
…when you come for me come singing
no dirge, but scat my eulogy in bebop
code. sing that i died among gods
but lived with no god & did not suffer
for it. find one true poem that i made
& sing it to my shade as it fades
into the wind. sing it presto, in 4/4 time
in the universal ghetto key of b flat…
And here on the NEA web site you will find links to audio of his reading of After Vallejo and his remarks to the National Council on the Arts in March 2005.
These two gentlemen are well worth knowing; they have done immeasurable good for the world of jazz and in support of jazz musicians in America.
As readers of Rifftides already know, yesterday was the 100th anniversary of the birth of Bennett Carter. (If you missed the Rifftides postings go here and here.) Benny lived to see 95, and according to Quincy Jones, host of last night’s tribute at the Hollywood Bowl, Benny had a blast at his 95th birthday party.
Overall, it was an excellent concert featuring The Benny Carter Trio (Chris Neville, Steve LaSpina and Steve Johns) and the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra with many spectacular soloists, plus several special guests. For me the high-note was Russell Malone‘s most beautiful solo guitar rendition of a Carter original titled “All About You.” Backstage, during intermission, Russell told me that he was visiting Benny’s home one day and Benny played it for him. “I asked him if he wrote it and he said ‘yes, yesterday’ and gave it to me.” Other moments of great beauty included the contributions of James Moody (who now drives Benny’s Rolls Royce with a license plate that reads: “Benny’s”) and Roy Hargrove (with whom Benny alternated sets during a week at the Blue Note in New York in 1994) — both played with great sensitivity and beautiful tone.
Less pleasing were the vocalists. Roberta Gambarini, may have great chops but to my ears she has no soul, no feeling whatsoever. And Marlena Shaw hit the most sour note of the night, complete destroying “Here’s to Life.” Both Joe Williams and Shirley Horn have recorded definitive versions of that song, each plumbing the depths of the song’s lyric and harmonic intent. I am not adverse to an artist refashioning a song, infusing it with their unique interpretation, but Marlena chose to disregard both the meaning of the words and the melodic and harmonic integrity of the composition, offering instead some pseudo-hip “jazzy” arrangement. I should have been forewarned when Quincy introduced the segment with a scripted story about Benny telling Marlena that lyrics don’t matter in jazz, it’s all about the improv. Having known Benny, I have my doubts about that story, or at least about what he meant by whatever it is that he actually said. It may be relevant that the tune in question during that discussion was “Cottontail.” I am aware of only two sets of lyrics for this song, the original being about how Easter bunny Peter Cottontail brings a basket full of goodies for children on Easter morning:
Here comes Peter Cottontail,
Hopping’ down the bunny trail,
Easter’s on its way.
and Ella Fitzgerald’s version:
Come on, Wail
Wail, Cotton Tail
Benny Webster, come on and blow for me
hardly in the same league as Here’s To Life ( lyrics by Phyllis Molinary, music by Artie Butler):
No complaints and no regrets
I still believe in chasing dreams and placing bets
And I have learned that all you give is all you get
So give it all you’ve got
I had my share, I drank my fill
And even though I’m satisfied, I’m hungry still
To see what’s down another road, beyond a hill
And do it all again……….
Also on point, not to mention speaking of Ben Webster, my husband has often told a story about Ben opining that you can’t really do justice to a song unless you know the lyrics. This is something I’ve heard many jazz musicians say. Luther Henderson (whose bio I am in he process of writing) used to go so far as write in the lyrics on the orchestral charts he was arranging so that the classical musicians might have a deeper understanding of the music.
Low-notes not withstanding, it was a lovely evening and, in these days prone to commercial pandering, I was especially heartened to see such a big turn-out to celebrate the music of Benny Carter. Those who miss him most will speak first of the classy guy whose style as a man was understated but whose friendship was fiercely loyal, and then they will regale you with stories of his prodigious talents.
I am thrilled to see comments about my tribute to Les Fernandez! In addition to a very touching note from Coach’s daughter, Lanette, I am also gratified to see responses from people who were pleased to read about such a man even though they did not know him. Several people have asked me to write more about him and to tell of how I came to know him. This is a request that I will honor, but not today. At one time Coach and I spoke about writing a book and I deeply regret that the time was never right for such an undertaking. I need to spend some time with my memories before I write more.
Meanwhile, however, Lanette wrote a very wonderful eulogy, and I told her via private email that it was not only moving but also beautifully crafted. I asked her if I could post it here for you to see and she said “yes.”
A Tribute to Dad by Lanette Fernandez
We are gathering today not only to comfort each other during this difficult time, but to celebrate the life of a beautiful man and to ask God to invite him into his world.
The term “gentle giant” comes to mind when i speak of my dad, Coach. 6’ tall, and a shoe size to match, he made his mark in life quietly and unpretentiously yet, his strength and love for life and people roared like a jet breaking the sound barrier. He had the ability to speak to anyone, from all walks of life – rich or poor, educated or not, troubled or fortunate – and make them feel like he understood – like what they had to say or what they were feeling was the most important thing to him. He spent his life reaching out to anyone that needed a hand or a sounding board.
I so readily recall hearing young and old speak of my dad’s kindness throughout my entire childhood. I remember often sharing dinner or our home with a youth that was going through difficult times. Coach would meet some troubled youth, and after he removed whatever weapons they may be carrying, say, “ok now – how about you come home with me and we’ll talk over dinner?!!” Sometimes I was frightened by the people he brought home, and now when I think about it as an adult, rightfully so, but God watched over Coach and guided him to make the right decisions.
As kind as Coach was, he wasn’t a push over. He always set the bar high. He encouraged those in his presence to attain a higher standard and gave them the tools to experience success. So many people I have met throughout my life have spoken the words, “your dad saved me from a life of …” whatever their demise may have been.
The eternal optimist, he could find a “reason” to explain the most horrific behavior (except poor grades from his children – there was no reason for that!!). Coach always reserved judgement and repeatedly preached, and lived, a life of understanding, acceptance of differences, kindness and honesty. He had a magical way with people that was almost supernatural – unexplainable, as though God blessed him and only him with this uncanny sixth sense.
Fortunately for him, he married my mom who went along with his crazy ideas of saving everyone!! She would keep him grounded in reality when his desire to “fix” someone’s problem was just not reasonable or too dangerous. Her strength allowed him the freedom to fulfill his calling of helping others.
So as we say goodbye to Coach and thank god for blessing us with having known him, the best “thank you” we can give to Coach for enriching our lives is to continue his mission of understanding and kindness. Let’s make a conscious effort to reserve judgement, practice acts of kindness and patience. Hold the door for the next person; let that car into traffic even if you have the right of way. Offer someone in need a few moments of your time – even if you don’t know what to say or how to help. When there is a reasonable choice, act unselfishly. This is what Coach devoted his life to and there is no better tribute to a “teacher” than to let him know –
“I heard you, I watched you and I have learned from you”
It was just yesterday (technically early this morning) that I wrote about musical people who have left a void, and now I have just learned of the death of Lee Wing. You may not know her by name, but she wrote “An Older Man Is Like an Elegant Wine,” a song that was recorded to great acclaim by both Carol Sloane and Nancy Wilson.
I never met Mrs. Wing, and all I knew about her was her talent as a songwriter. Now, reading her obituary (which I am posting below) I am fascinated to learn of her work in the fields of government and education. A common thread seems to be giving people a voice. Smart Start Kids is an Emmy-award-winning half-hour television program where preschool children are the “stars” of the show, and my eyes zoom in on phrases like “citizen call-ins,” and “connect people and their government.” It seems that her life touched on many of the same topics that I hold dear. Here, then, is her obituary from the Durham Herald-Sun, August 29, 2006.
Durham’s Honored Mrs. Wing dies
Lucie Lee Abramson Wing of Durham, who founded and served as president of Friends of University Network Television (WUNC) and was arts and communications policy adviser to Gov. Jim Hunt in the 1970s, died Sunday. She was 80 and had lived in Durham since 1965.
“I just loved her,” longtime friend Mary D.B.T. Semans said Monday. “She was so talented. I admired her so. She inspired me.”
Mrs. Wing also was executive director of the N.C. Agency for Public Telecommunications from 1979 to 1993, and created OPEN/net, a statewide satellite and cable television network with unscreened citizen call-ins designed to connect people and their government.
The network won the Ford Foundation and Harvard-Kennedy School of Government Award for Innovations in State and Local Government.
Mrs. Wing also received the Governor’s Award of Excellence and was inducted into the Order of the Longleaf Pine for her service to the state.
In 1993, she founded Responsive Media Inc. as a vehicle for new projects involving audience participation. She produced the Call-In Kids radio program from 1996 to 1999, and later created Smart Start Kids, produced by WRAL-TV, which won a regional Emmy Award in 2004.
Mrs. Wing also wrote music and lyrics. Her song “Pushing Forty” was recorded by Pearl Bailey and “An Older Man Is Like an Elegant Wine” was recorded by both Carol Sloane and Nancy Wilson.
From 1968 to 1972, Mrs. Wing was president of the Durham County Democratic Women. She co-chaired Terry Sanford’s 1972 presidential campaign and was a delegate to the 1972 Democratic National Convention.
“She was such a believer in democracy and worked for it all the time,” Mrs. Semans said. “She cherished the Constitution and everything about it.”
Former state Rep. George Miller of Durham agreed.
“She was really the one person who originally advocated open government in North Carolina,” Miller said. “That included the Legislature, the Office of the Governor, state agencies, and the like…. She had many talents.”
Mrs. Wing is survived by her husband, Cliff; her son and daughter-in-law, Steve and Betsy; their daughters, Ann and Marion; her son and daughter-in-law, Scott and Natasha; and their sons, Erik and Nicholas.
The family said it will announce plans later to remember and celebrate her life.
On my CD player today I have three discs in rotation; they are The Complete Solid State Recordings of the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra (Mosaic 1994). Thad, middle brother to Hank and Elvin, would have been 83 years old today. He was a brilliant arranger and band leader, better known for his dynamic conducting, harmonic constructions, section writing, and on-the-spot head arrangements than for his horn playing. But he playing was beautiful too. I mention Thad from time to time on this blog — A Week of Monday Nightslast May, Once Upon A Monday Night last October, and just last week I mentioned seeing Ralph Gleason’s “Jazz Casual” tv episode featuring the band in the late 1960s. I guess I’d better order theJazz Casual DVDs while supplies last.
I am so glad that my husband gifted me this boxed CD set when it came out a dozen years ago; being a “limited edition” it is no longer available. The brightness and bounce of Little Pixie seems particularly uplifting on this chilly, rainy day in usually sunny California. Happy birthday Thaddeus.